Monday, October 3, 2022

Russia bids farewell to Gorbachev in funeral snubbed by President Putin

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who launched drastic reforms that helped end the Cold War and precipitated the breakup of the Soviet Union, was buried Saturday after a farewell ceremony attended by thousands of mourners but snubbed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin’s refusal to formally declare a state funeral reflects its uneasiness about the legacy of Gorbachev, who has been venerated worldwide for bringing down the Iron Curtain but reviled by many at home for the Soviet collapse and the ensuing economic meltdown that plunged millions into poverty.
On Thursday, Putin privately laid flowers at Gorbachev’s coffin at a Moscow hospital where he died. The Kremlin said the president’s busy schedule would prevent him from attending the funeral.
Asked what specific business will keep Putin busy on Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the president will have a series of working meetings, an international phone call and needs to prepare for a business forum in Russia’s Far East he’s scheduled to attend next week.
Gorbachev, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, was buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife Raisa, following a farewell ceremony at the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions, an opulent 18th-century mansion near the Kremlin that has served as the venue for state funerals since Soviet times.
At the ceremony Saturday, mourners passed by Gorbachev’s open casket flanked by honorary guards, laying flowers as solemn music played. Gorbachev’s daughter, Irina, and his two granddaughters sat beside the coffin.
But officially declaring a state funeral for Gorbachev would have obliged Putin to attend it and would have required Moscow to invite foreign leaders, something that it was apparently reluctant to do amid soaring tensions with the West after sending troops to Ukraine.

SourceAP